Up to 80 per cent of people with visual problems could be treated for eyesight improvement if there were more funding and human resources, according to eye care experts.
"Millions of rural people, especially the disabled, have no access to eye care services due to shortages of qualified ophthalmologists and eye care clinics," said the Viet Nam National Institute of Ophthalmology Director (VNIO), Do Nhu Hon.
He described this as an "ignored area" of eye care services in Viet Nam.
Hon said that, nearly 1,200 ophthalmologists in Viet Nam were working in the largest cities; Ha Noi, HCM City and Da Nang.
The institute statistics said that the rate of eye doctors per capita in large cities was about 1.4 per 100,000 people in rural areas, compared to 6.5 per 100,000 as country average.
There are only 211 among 697 districts nation-wide that have ophthalmologists or assistants. Half the staff at communal health care clinics have not been trained in eye care.
"Two-thirds of people who have eye problems are unaware that they could be treated," said Hon.
A study by the German CBM Organisation and the National Steering Committee for Blindness Prevention indicated that the negligence of eye care could pose a problem, both at the communal and national scale.
Lack of priority policies to support human resource training and medical staff working in rural, mountainous and remote areas are existing barriers to help the disabled and the blind rehabilitating into community.
A health official from the northern province of Son La Luong Xuan Hia said that the province could not handle an increasing number of blind people.
"The province needs a plan to restructure health care system, particularly training more staff to take care of the disabled, including the blind," said Hia.
"Disabled patients usually receive fewer support from medical staffs than normal patients," said Doctor Nguyen Thi Thu Hien from the VNIO.
She said that the country is lacking programmes for the disabled, and especially for those with visual problems. Most of eye care programmes are funded by NGOs.
"Visual care programmes should receive more attention in this country. This could help improve living standards for the general population," she said.
According to data collected by the General Statistics Office, in 2009 there were 6.7 million people in Viet Nam living with disabilities, of which 75 per cent lived in rural areas, and 33 per cent of them were visual problems.
Nun Van Nga from Nhat Hong Humanity Centre in HCM City, said the lack of awareness and available knowledge about visual health has led many people to go blind. Another problem she pointed out was a lack of training by medical specialists.
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